Of course, Brussels is the place for mussels. Unfortunately, Brussels was not a very good place for MY muscles, since I did much more sight-seeing and eating than I did jogging, but what can you do. You only live once.
I had the famed moules frites twice while in Brussels. The first time was OK, but the broth wasn’t terribly flavorful. J sampled mine, and decided it was something he’d like to try again (I’m not sure he felt the same way about the raw oysters he had as an appetizer). The second time was soon before leaving Brussels. That evening we allowed ourselves to be enchanted by the attractive but sometimes aggressive restaurant streets by the Grand Place, where white-linened tables crowd the sidewalk and fast-talking try to entice you to sit. The moules that night were better– they just felt fresher and better than the previous ones, and the white wine sauce, though a bit salty, enhanced the flavor. The fries were good, but y’know what? I don’t think I had any fries in Belgium that truly blew me away. Of course they were satisfying, but I think I prefer my potatoes with the skin on– I daresay the boardwalk fries I will eat later this summer in the States will top Belgian frites in my book.
However, I don’t think I will find the equal of a Belgian waffle anywhere else in this world. After reading on Orangette about gaufre de Liege, I knew what to look for– the smaller, rounder waffles, and make sure that it just came off the iron. Warm, yeasty, kind of dense, every inch of the brown surface offering some caramelized flavor. I know this extreme close-up of a waffle is kind of frightening, but you can see the texture, as well as the pearl sugar that adds extra-sweet spots to the waffle.
Then there were the everyday food experiences. Like finding out early on that Belgium has a much smaller selection of yogurt and other dairy products than Estonia. I failed to find an inexpensive plain nonfat yogurt at the store, but I found something in a yogurt-like container that said “Fromage blanc, 0%.” Maybe that’s what they call plain yogurt here? (Even though I knew very well that “fromage blanc” means “white cheese”). It seemed to be more or less what I was looking for. At home, I discovered the taste was more complex than just the regular sourness of yogurt– it reminded me a little of goat cheese, though as far as I could tell, it wasn’t made from goat’s milk. (I finally checked Wikipedia to figure out what I was actually eating).
On nice days, I could eat lunch outside at the place I was working. There was a lovely backyard. Doesn’t it look pleasant? Though the food is nothing remarkable, this may be one of my favorite memories from Brussels.